by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraigCruisingforMurder_ebook_Final

I’m not one of the front-runners, ever, on promotion-related things.  I tend to be a lot more cautious.  Or, really, it’s more that I’m super-protective of my time and jealously guard it.  I want to make sure there’s plenty of data that something works before I spend the time figuring it out and pursuing it.

I’ve been hearing for the last year or so about the importance of preordering.  But I didn’t see how it would be something I wanted to pursue. When I was on the trad-published email loops, authors would complain about how preorders killed their chances for the bestseller lists and watered down their release day/week sales.

I also kept reading that preorders on Amazon didn’t make any sense because the visibility we gained on the site was only at the time of the order…not accumulated and toward release day sales.

At the recent NINC conference, I heard even more about preorders, this time from the folks at Draft2Digital.  They acknowledged that it doesn’t make sense for authors to make their self-published books available for preorder on Amazon…but thought it helped to increase sales on other retail platforms.  I’ve heard other authors talk about their successes with iBooks and Kobo through preorders (see the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast for more details) ,so I was inclined to believe that they were right about it giving authors an advantage on those sites.

I subscribe to Mark Coker’s blog (he’s the founder of Smashwords) and a July 2015 post specifically addressed hitting bestseller lists with preorders.  The link to his slideshow on the topic is here and the portion that deals specifically with preorders starts with slide 231.

Of note in the slideshow (for me, at any rate):

Customers’ credit cards aren’t charged until the release date (this, to me, again shows that the sale is technically on release day).

“Allows superfans to start reading and reviewing first.”  Good point.  The people that we most want to get our book first will get it first.

“Preorders can be merchandised inside your other books.”  Interesting. This means modifying our epub files (I wouldn’t be linking to other retailers in the backs of my Kindle books, obviously).

Apple iBooks automatic merchandising.  So they’re listing our preorder alongside our other titles.

“Consider releasing on a Saturday to fully leverage the increased visibility of your sales rank.”  Coker states that weekends have higher volumes of sales.

My thoughts on this:

I’m already getting covers done a year in advance of my even writing a book so that there aren’t any production delays in terms of cover design with my designer.  This means I’ve also already written the cover copy (description) because of the print version. Why not put the book up for preorder on sites where it can make a difference at the launch?

Mark Coker also recommended a best practice being to let our newsletter subscribers know that they could get the book, via preorder, at a reduced price.  My problem with that, though, is that most of my readers are buying through Amazon where the book wouldn’t be available via low price or preorder.  I didn’t really want any negative feedback on that, so I just decided to skip a newsletter mention of the preorder.

Both Draft2Digital and Smashwords say that the release date can be adjusted if, for some reason, we want to change it. That made me feel better, even though I’m used to working with deadlines.

I’ve put two Myrtle Clovers up for preorder on retailers other than Amazon…one is just 2 months away, the other is 10 months away.  I’ll be watching to see how the experiment goes …both in the lead-up to the release and on launch day.  I’m especially curious to see if my footprint at these other retailers increases.

Have you put any books up for preorder?  Also, as a special note, I’m going to be doing a Q&A with ALLi founder Orna Ross Tuesday, October 20 at 3 p.m. ET about Wattpad. It will be live on Google Hangouts at this link. 

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28 thoughts on “Preorders

  1. I think there can be some advantages to pre-orders. But I’m not sure that they outweigh the challenges, to be honest. It’s so interesting that you’ve found that the whole picture looks different depending on which site one uses for publication and sales. Hmmm…..I can see where the opportunity to pre-order the next book can boost sales of a current book. Lots to think about here, for which thanks.

    1. Margot–This is true. I think it works best for an author who knows she’s writing to a specific schedule, already gets her cover and cover copy well in advance, and is trying to drive sales on sites other than Amazon.

  2. As I always do, I learned something here today. I didn’t even think about pre-order or not when setting up my novel to be published on Amazon. Thanks, Elizabeth

  3. I’ll check it out October 20th. I did a preorder in hopes of getting reviews in. Well, people could not post reviews until release date, so that was no help. Anyway, I do have five reviews so far and that will help major promotions I have coming up.

    Stephen Tremp

    1. Stephen–Right, they can’t post the reviews, or actually even get the text of the book, until release day. But they’ll get it first thing on release day and, since these would likely be our more avid readers, they would be more likely to post reviews quicker (because they’ll read the book quicker).

  4. I’ve heard many things about Amazon’s pre-order plan that I find confusing, so I’m anxiously awaiting your results. (But really, you’re working on a book ten month in advance? I’m lucky to know when I’ll finish a chapter :)

    Peace, Seeley

    1. Seeley–I think it works best on Apple and Kobo, from what I’ve read and heard. May hurt us on Amazon.

      Well, “work” is subjective. :) All I do is (and I did this back in July, so technically, I could have had the book at the top of the post available for preorder months ago) is to come up with an outline, write the cover copy/book description, and give my book designer an idea of what I want on the cover. I probably won’t write that book until April of 2016. Makes me wonder how preorders work if (morbid mystery writer in me) the author gets hit by a train or something months before the release? I guess they simply refund everyone and hope customers are understanding.

  5. Many indie authors on Amazon have been doing pre-orders for a while now, long before Apple and D2D and Smashwords provided assetless pre-orders. So… I’m not sure what the fuss is. Traditional publishers have been doing pre-orders for years. Nothing new.

    1. Jan–It’s a little confusing, for sure. I think that a lot of (indie) authors are pulling away from Amazon preorders because it cannibalizes sales if we use preorders–those preorders don’t count toward our rank on launch day. So that lowers our visibility there.

      With my trad published books, it was the same thing–if my books were preordered, they didn’t count toward release day sales or the NY Times bestseller list. I knew authors who tried *not* to get preorders for those reasons…or who would complain that they *should* be on the NYT extended list if the preorders had counted. Personally, I don’t think many people really pay attention to the NYT list anymore, but visibility on Amazon in our category is more important.

  6. I set up two preorders on amazon in Sep/Oct. Not because of any of the reasons listed in your post, but because I wanted to get in on a couple of group promotions opportunities around Halloween and they needed my Kindle book links. I hadn’t hit ‘publish’ yet on either book, but knew that they would be up and ready to schedule for freebies by the promotion date. So I put them on preorder in order to be able to give the group organizers my Kindle links ahead of time.

    And in case you’re wondering, no you can’t set up your promo days while your book is on preorder. You have to wait until it is live.

    I was told that on Amazon you can move your release date earlier, but not later. This is true, but you can’t change your release date to today or tomorrow. The revised release date needs to be about five days out.

    1. P.D.–I see…didn’t even think about that. Having a preorder link to take part in a promotion makes a lot of sense.

      And…ugh. Not being able to adjust the Amazon release day to a *later* day means that anyone considering putting a title up for preorder on Amazon should really pad the release date in case of any type of emergency.

    1. Jemi–I think it helps trad published in some ways…can help sell the next book in the series if preorders are good, for example. But not as great for maybe the bestseller lists or visibility on Amazon. It tends to be what our editors want, though…I was always encouraged to try to get preorders for my trad pubbed books.

  7. Hi Elizabeth – so interesting to read more … but it’s a muddling business starting off – once settled in I guess it rocks gently along. But I’m glad you’re here writing these posts for us – certainly helps me get glimpses into the authorly world. Cheers Hilary

  8. So much business stuff it makes my head swim. However, this makes sense and seems to be a great idea. “Allows superfans to start reading and reviewing first.” First of all, I wish I had any superfans, or one. :) Secondly, this is a great idea, to give people who are devoted to reading your writing first dibs.

    Can’t wait to read the followup.

  9. I’m looking forward to seeing how your pre-orders pan out. From my side, I put my first two books up on pre-order on Amazon and D2D, and actually, most of the books I sold was in the months running up to the release date. (As in, as soon as I announced publishing the books and that pre-orders could be made, people started pre-ordering, and all but two of those books sold on release day.)

    Maybe it didn’t do such a huge thing for the rankings, but I’m okay with that, because I still out-sold my former publisher for the same book at around the same rankings. The thing is just that I’m selling more frequently.

    1. Misha–That’s got to make you feel good when you see how many books you were able to move, compared to your publisher. That shows, to me, that it’s our content/platform that readers are attracted to.

      I’m looking to increase my sales on non-Amazon retail sites, so I’m hoping these preorders will give me some visibility on the sites. :)

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